Jan 282016
 

Blogging Business Artisans is a diverse team of Etsy sellers and bloggers to which I belong. We support and encourage each other to grow as artisans and business owners while socializing online through private discussions. One of our team requirements is meeting a team challenge four times a year. There are 12 challenges, and you choose the ones that appeal to you most and/or whose timing you can meet.

This month, jewelry designer Sharla of Beaded Tail challenged teammates as follows:

What do you hope to accomplish this year? What are you looking forward to doing in 2016? Do you have plans to travel someplace exciting, move to a new home/city or how about get a kitten? Will you be taking your shop in new directions? Let us know or give us a hint of your year to come!”

As some of you may already know, this first month of 2016 got started with a big surprise: the news that I had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, subsequently underwent major surgery and am now in recovery, and will likely be looking soon at the possibility of several radiation sessions. Whatever else I had planned for 2016, I must say that starting off the year this way clarifies and simplifies your priorities. So, here we go!

Celebrate the moment. In January nearly everyone I know, including myself, vows that this will be the year they eat more healthy foods, become more fit, get adequate sleep—in short, this will be the year of the body makeover. My goal this year is not so lofty; I’d simply like to recover from surgery, successfully undergo radiation treatment, and then live each day in a balanced way. Certainly that means making better food choices and establishing a regular routine of walking. But it doesn’t mean climbing a mountain, booking an exotic cruise, or moving into a more spacious home (which would be nice). It does mean taking joy in the small moments and being happy to be alive.

Flowers from Mary

Write more. In my previous post I mentioned that last August I started working full-time out of the home after spending many years at home, writing, crafting and volunteering. The result was that my writing habits languished—something I deeply missed. Writing helps me maintain a positive outlook. I use blogging, a public form of writing, to touch base with others whose interests are similar to mine, or to share my passion for creative endeavors. I write poetry, a private form of writing, to reflect about personal issues. I’d love to get back to writing real letters—old-fashioned paper letters that make people laugh and cry and hope and reminisce, real letters that people unfold and re-read and save, instead of e-mail notes that get deleted with a click or deposited into a virtual trash can.

The Write Goal

Keep the hands busy. Everywhere you look, I have UFOs (UnFinished Objects) scattered all over the house. There are balls of yarn on the family room couch in the basement, waiting to be crocheted. There are projects bags filled with linen fabric, colored threads and beads, waiting to be stitched up. There are boxes—yes, stacked boxes—of fabric, waiting to be sewn up into organizers, journal covers, purses, place mats and more. There are stacks of card stock and printed papers on the verge of being turned into handmade books. And finally, there are lists of project ideas that will likely never see the light of day. I perpetually lament not having enough time to get things done, but the reality is that I will never have enough time in this lifetime to get it all done. Who does? But you’ll never get anything finished if you don’t start. Just keep the hands busy, and do it. Get used to doing what you can with the time that you have, and don’t look back.

Yarn UFOs

That’s it. Those are my goals for this year. Everything else is secondary. What are your goals for 2016?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 232016
 

If you had told me, back in August when I started a full-time job, that my life would turn upside down, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“I’ll have time to blog,” I told myself. “After all, I’ve been working at home the equivalent of full-time—writing, crafting and volunteering.”

What I hadn’t counted on was how tired I would be at the end of the day, and how few hours would be left before bedtime for household tasks, socializing with my husband, and running my Etsy business.

My number one goal this year is to try to get back into some semblance of a blogging schedule, which means old strategies need to be reviewed, and new strategies may be in order. Time management is a topic I have discussed previously in these posts:

I must admit, however, that things look different when you’re on someone else’s clock for the better part of the day. After giving this some thought, here are three strategies that I think will work for anyone who wants to blog while working full-time away from home.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find your focus

When you have limited time to write, knowing ahead of time what your focus will be is invaluable. In her article, Tips for Creating Catchy Headlines, Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company suggests you direct your attention to the title of your post.

It’s helpful to have a goal in mind as you’re writing your post. Creating your headline first helps you set that goal and maintain your focus; it gives you a reference point and a purpose to work toward.”

If you’re stumped for ideas about a title for your post, Lauren includes a handy list of title-starters that will solve that issue:

  • How to (Desired Result)
  • (Number) Reasons __________
  • What Every __________ Should Know About __________
  • Why __________ is __________
  • (Number) Ways to Avoid __________
  • My (Adjective) Way for __________
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Save the leftovers

You’ve probably heard it said previously that people today want their information quickly in short bursts, which leads to a recommendation that you keep your blog posts short, with short being defined many different ways. On the other hand, according to Shelly Pringle in Blogging Best Practices: The Ideal Length for the Perfect Blog Post, “After a lot of research I eventually found the answer: longer content tends to rank higher in search engine results pages, attract more inbound links, get more social shares and convert better.” But in terms of the time you have to write versus the length of your blog post, it probably serves your purposes well to say what you have to say, and if you have a lot more to discuss about your topic, save it for another day and another post. Find another point of view, an angle you haven’t covered, or a connection to something else, and spin that into another post. You can even promise your readers a follow-up post in the near future, giving them something to anticipate. Your posts, especially if you have limited time to write, don’t need to be encyclopedic in length, breadth and depth.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Throw out the “buts”

When you lead a busy life, it’s altogether too easy to tell yourself you would write more, but you simply don’t have enough time. Very few people have the luxury of large chunks of time that they can devote to writing. In her book, Writer with a Day Job, Áine Greaney says that the word “but” signals what we cannot do. In other words, it’s negative thinking. She says you should instead challenge yourself with but’s opposite, the word “can.”

“Okay,” she writes, “what can you do? Can you write for 10 minutes every morning?”

I decided to accept Áine’s challenge by taking my laptop to work several days of the week to write this post. I usually have 10 to 20 minutes left after I eat lunch, and discovered you can write an amazing number of words if you allow yourself to focus on nothing but your writing, even if you only have a few minutes each day.

For the typical nine-to-fiver, Áine suggests you set objectives for yourself that are achievable, measurable, and clearly stated. For example, you might promise yourself that you will write a single blog post each week during your lunch hour. Even if you’re only writing for a few minutes each day, your post is getting longer and you’ll eventually finish it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Blogging is tough to fit into your schedule even if you don’t work full-time at another job. Your life may simply be filled with many other demands. “The key,” according to How to find time to write while you work, “is letting go of the idea of a perfect, unblemished block of time for your writing and looking for new strategies that will give you 30 to 60 extra minutes per day.”

If you work full-time away from home, how do you fit blogging into your schedule?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 192016
 

When I was diagnosed with a form of endometrial cancer a couple of weeks ago, I debated whether I would write about it. Later this week, I will undergo surgery to remove my ovaries, uterus and Fallopian tubes, and then will begin the process of recovery.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cancer is one of those words in everyone’s vocabulary that no one wants to experience firsthand. I watched my father die from lung cancer while the cancer cells marched insidiously through his body to his brain, and finally inhabited his skeletal system. Throughout that period he maintained his dignity—as much as you can while you’re propped up in a hospital bed and need assistance to eat, dress, shower and use the bathroom. Mostly he tried to ease others’ discomfort about being in the vicinity of someone with cancer by telling jokes. “How do you feel today?” a nurse or aide might ask. “With my fingers, of course,” he would respond. His daily chuckle, I think, got him through each day.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My own situation is far different from my father’s—hopeful where his was hopeless, treatable and well understood where his disease had progressed beyond the point of return, and painless (at least before surgical intervention!), where my father’s disease left him sensitive to every touch. I am fortunate to have an experienced oncologist surgeon who specializes in women’s cancers of the reproductive system, fortunate to work for an employer that supplies excellent insurance and a partial wage-replacement system while I am on medical leave, and fortunate to have a supportive husband and son.

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Still, cancer remains That Disease Other People Get. When it arrives on your doorstep, you can wring your hands and ask, “Why me?” or deal with it one step at a time, concentrating on the present moment. When people ask me how I feel, I tell them that no one feels good when cancer knocks on your door, but that I can honestly say I feel reassured by the level of both physical and emotional support I am receiving, as well as by the typical prognosis for the type of cancer I have, when it is treated. “Reassured” is my word of the month. And it’s reassuring, too, to know that so many people are praying on your behalf. Thank you, everyone!

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the pieces of advice my doctor gave me was to avoid reading every Web site in the world about cancer. I’m not sure whether he knew that I’m one of those people who eagerly research everything they can, but in any event his advice was sound. You can drive yourself crazy, reading about all of the potential detours your disease can take. My doctor pointed out that most Web sites offer general information, while every cancer is unique—just as every patient is unique. This becomes obvious when you hop from site to site, reading post-surgery advice about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. One Web site encourages you to eat a high fiber diet, while your doctor may tell you, at least initially, to avoid such foods. Another site warns you about potential weight gain, while the next site is populated with testimonials by women who have lost weight.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While I think it is irresponsible to go into any surgery and subsequent recovery period without doing any research at all, or by not asking your doctor questions, it is equally irresponsible not to be selective about the sources you research. I like to visit www.mayoclinic.com, for example, for reliable medical information, at least as a starting point. And then I ask my medical staff lots of questions.

My goal, these days, is to live in each moment, and to not dwell unduly about the what-ifs. Worrying is wasted time, effort and energy. I’ve joined the C-Club, a membership that is far greater than I ever imagined. There is comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but also a bit of reticence about keeping your membership. The goal is to become cancer-free and healthy, and to leave that membership behind you.

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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